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The Sauk County Health Care Center showcased its latest project May 30 as crews work to install a solar energy array.

The Reedsburg facility was the first of 15 stops for the Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum to highlight what Executive Director Scott Coenen said "the future of energy is going to look like" in the state.

"This was no. 1 on our list because, obviously, this is a unique project to highlight here," Coenen said. 

County board members, industry professionals and state representatives had a chance to ask questions and discuss the future of solar energy in the state and see the six rows of solar panels located in the back of the nursing home.

The installation of the solar panels on the two buildings was a much debated topic on the board's agenda for years, and was delayed multiple times before it was given the OK in January.

“We are proud to have finally moved this from theory to practice and it is the future,” said County Board Chair Peter Vedro.

Eagle Point Solar General Manager Jim Pullen said construction is estimated to be completed “in a couple of weeks” and the panels are expected to begin providing energy to the facility in July.

When the project at the nursing home is complete, the focus will turn to installing the rooftop solar array at the Baraboo law enforcement facility.

Funding

The use of a third-party investor allows the county to potentially save money and reduce its carbon footprint.

Along with a focus on energy grant, Eagle Point Energy is picking up the tab for the installation costs of a $395,000 ground array and over $792,000 for the rooftop project in Baraboo.

The financing also provides the option for the county to purchase the arrays after seven years and potentially save money on utility bills. The cumulative cash flow savings from both projects in a 25-year period is projected to be more than $550,000 for the county. The estimated cash flow savings to the health care center in one year is estimated at over $11,000 while the 25-year cumulative cash flow is estimated at $396,257.

“It is groundbreaking for a Wisconsin county because some counties are just getting into it at this combination at both the solar and this third-party financing,” said Mark Hanson, director of sustainable services for Hoffman Planning, Design and Construction.

Eagle Point Solar General Manager Jim Pullen said from an investor's standpoint, there are advantages to having another party in the project. 

“We have the ability to monetize the tax credits and monetize the depreciation and therefore our cost to build this solar array is less than if the county just wrote us a check,” Pullen said. "Therefore we pass that lower cost back to the county by way of a lower energy rate.”

Contact Erica Dynes at 608-393-5346 or on Twitter @EDynes_CapNews.